Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Mellon University’s engineers have utilised 3D printing to create a microfluidic chip to detect COVID-19 antibodies within 12 seconds. To do this, the engineers used a significantly small drop of blood of five microlitres. The research, published in Advanced Materials, highlights that the platform can identify the presence of two of the virus’s antibodies, receptor-binding domain (RBD) and spike S1 protein. The device can detect concentrations of antibodies below one picomolar and relies on an electrochemical reaction stored in the microfluidics to send a signal to a computer or smartphone which is nearby.
The team used aerosol jet 3D printing to create the device. Inexpensive and minuscule gold micropillar electrodes were printed at nanoscale by thermally sintering aerosol droplets together. This provides an enhanced electrochemical reaction and increased surface area of the micropillars so that antibodies can lock onto antigens coated on the electrode. The micropillars load more proteins for detection, through the specific geometry, resulting in quick and accurate results.
“Engineers create a microfluidic chip to detect COVID-19 antibodies within 12 seconds.“
Carnegie Mellon’s associate professor of mechanical engineering, Rahul Panat, stated: “We utilised the latest advances in materials and manufacturing such as nanoparticle 3D printing to create a device that rapidly detects COVID-19 antibodies. Because our technique can quantify the immune response to vaccination, it is very relevant in the current environment.”